The Vanguard conference is a gathering of rising urban innovators working to make change in cities. Designed to bring together professionals working across disciplines and sectors, each Vanguard class includes policymakers and politicians, architects and urban planners, artists and mediamakers, all selected through a competitive application process. After more than a decade of Vanguard conferences, the Vanguards number more than 400. Learn more about Vanguards past and present on this page, where you can search for Vanguards and Vanguard alumni by discipline, geographic area and more. Find your next collaborator or just learn about these rising leaders.
Nathaly Agosto Filión is the City of Newark’s leading sustainability strategist, convening interdepartmental teams to make Newark a cleaner, greener, healthier, better prepared, and more engaged city. She works with a diverse network of partners advancing a variety of sustainability, greening, environmental health, and quality of life initiatives.
Priya is an Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff for the Funding Agreements Department at NYCEDC. She specializes in implementing projects that require managing multiple stakeholders, coordinating different types of funding and leveraging in-depth knowledge of city policy in support of nonprofit clients pursuing important neighborhood development projects.
Christine Appah is a senior staff attorney at NYLPI where she specializes in children’s environmental health. Christine has served as a regional director at the NYS Division of Human Rights and as an attorney at The Legal Aid Society of New York. Christine is a graduate of Duke Law School.
With a background in arts, culture and urban planning, Daniel Arnow is committed to building sustainable communities in the arts. Daniel currently works as Director of Affordable Housing Initiatives at The Actors Fund and holds an MS in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute.
Nisha is an urban planner and life-long city dweller driven to making cities more equitable. She has 15 years experience working with city agencies, community organizations and private institutions locally and internationally. She is Co-Executive Director at Hester Street, an urban planning, design and development nonprofit that works to ensure neighborhoods are shaped by the people who live in them.
Tim Barnes is a multi-disciplinary designer based in Philadelphia. He is the Creative Director at Shiftspace, an award-winning architecture, interiors, urban design, and industrial design studio, where he oversees the creative team. In addition to his work at Shiftspace, Tim designs products for the furniture brand Shift.
Jennifer Bolstad is a landscape architect, educator, and community organizer. Her work aligns natural-systems-based infrastructure with social justice initiatives. She is Principal Landscape Architect at Local Office Landscape and Urban Design, Lecturer at Parsons/The New School, and boardmember of the Coastal Marine Resource Center of New York and Puerto Rico.
Ajamu Brown is a former Peace Corps volunteer (Namibia 2000-2002), seasoned community organizer, and holds a Master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Policy from Tufts University, and a B.A. in Speech Communications from Ithaca College. He currently works a Community Relations Manager at L+M Development Partners.
With a focus on the intersection of people in neighborhoods, race, class, and creativity, Aimee has recently returned to her hometown, Hartford, CT, to serve as its Director of Planning. Aimee has background in foster care case management and affordable housing development. She obtained a Masters in Urban Planning at University of Maryland-College Park.
A native of Newark, NJ, Steve is a UX Designer at Audible. He has had prior stints at Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and NYC & Company. Steve holds a B.A. in Economics and Computer Science from Boston College and an M.P.S. from NYU in the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).
Kathleen Corradi is the Zero Waste Manager for NYC Department of Education where she oversees the design and implementation of waste management and recycling programs across 1,800 schools and manages an outreach team of nine. Kathy holds a Master degree in Urban Sustainability from The City College of New York.
Sahar Coston-Hardy is a fine art and landscape architecture photographer focused on the social structure of race and cultural identity. Integrating portraiture, urban design, and street photography, her work investigates place, power, and personhood. She is currently working on a collaborative multimedia project, examining the landscape of resilience and struggle.
Clarissa Cummings has a Masters in International Affairs from The New School where her focus in studies was Cities and Social Justice. After living abroad and finding parallel issues around Black oppression in global cities she founded Urbanational to support the leadership development of Black changemakers working in urban spaces.
Jessica Debrah is a Program associate at Victoria Foundation. She graduated from Pomona College where she majored in International Relations with a focus on Africa, theatre, and non-governmental organizations. She is a Ghanaian immigrant who grew up in Newark; her love for Newark and Ghana informs her work greatly.
Lisa Destro grew up in the Dominican Republic to a Dominican mother and an Italian father. After graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY) with an M.S. in Transportation Engineering she moved to Boston to work for Cambridge Systematics. She’s been working in transportation planning specializing in goods movement since 2010, 8 years in Boston and as of last summer in NYC. Lisa is interested in providing effective and data-driven approaches to help develop equitable and sustainable solutions to transportation problems.
Douglas Farrand works at the intersection of music, education, urbanism, and place-based organizing. He is concerned with practices that invite us to explore our myriad processes of listening and embody a collective investigation of place, community, and personhood. Co-director of Music City at the University of Orange, NJ.
Devin Fields is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a B.A. in Landscape Architecture. He is focused on urban design and how we can design all-inclusive spaces using community input and engagement. He currently works as a Freelance Designer for Designing the WE and as a Program Assistant for the New York Botanical Garden.
Dara Goldberg is a Senior Planner with the NYC Department of City Planning’s Regional Planning Division, where she oversees the office’s research program. Dara is passionate about how data analytics and visualization might better inform policymaking. She holds a MSc in Urban Planning with Distinction from the University of Hong Kong.
Crystal Hudson is a native Brooklynite with over a decade of experience in operations, strategic planning, and marketing and advertising working across the public and private sectors. Currently, she is Chief of Operations to the New York City Council Majority Leader, and oversees land use and development projects.
Chané Jones is an Associate Counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice where she advances the organization’s Civic Engagement pillar through advocacy for its rights restoration initiative, and through holistic research & policy prescription geared towards revitalizing the South Ward of Newark. Chané is a lifelong resident of the City of Newark and holds a Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctor from Seton Hall University.
Blaze designs at the intersection of cities, people and nature. At Openbox he uses design to reimagine community engagement in urban development. He’s a Cornell graduate, senior fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program and was named one of “100 most influential urbanists you don’t know about, but should” by IOBY.
Cecily is a real estate developer and consultant returning to her native NJ after several years in Detroit. She is passionate about real estate because it is something that touches everyone’s lives. Cecily earned her MS in Real Estate Development from Columbia University and holds degrees from Lehigh and Princeton.
Cailean Kok works on the Healthy Places Program and the Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking at Project for Public Spaces applying her passion for transforming the built environment to improve physical and mental health outcomes. Cailean is active locally in Newark, NJ with bicycle advocacy, mentoring, and supporting local arts.
As Manager of Digital Marketing at the Greater Newark Convention and Visitors Bureau Isaiah leads the maintenance of the organization website and digital campaigns across the organization. He studied at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and held positions with Newark’s Office of Information Technology among other community organizations.
Amy is a city planner working on innovative stormwater planning and policy for the Philadelphia Water Department. She develops policies and partnerships to implement Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters Plan. Amy holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara and a Masters in City Planning from Cornell University.
Moe designs evidence-based models that are grounded in strong program management, rigorous performance monitoring, and public-private partnership. He helps organizations develop human-centered strategies, build capacity, and align program operations to outcomes. Moe’s a graduate of NYU Wagner and St. John’s University.
Kristen Mozian’s passion for helping microbusinesses began as an Americorps VISTA Volunteer in Oregon and grew through her work at Small Business Development Centers. Now as Director of Community at Makerhoods, she is creating a holistic approach to helping microbusiness owners grow their income and generate wealth.
Stanley Neron is an experienced motivational speaker, human service and social service advocate. Stan holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and collateral in Africana studies from Kean University. Stan is currently elected as a school board member of the Elizabeth Public Schools.
As Director of Special Projects at the Democracy at Work Institute, Anh-Thu leads market development initiatives and innovations for worker cooperative creation, scale and growth. Her previous work over the past decade has encompassed international human rights, social enterprise, and sustainable fashion.
Layqa Nuna Yawar is a migrant artist, muralist and educator born in Ecuador and based out of Newark, USA. His murals, paintings and projects question injustice, racism and xenophobia, while celebrating cross-cultural identity and migration in order to amplify the silenced narratives of people of color around the world.
As Managing Director at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, and Partner at Breakfast Lunch & Dinner Onyeka Obiocha organizes resources to build inclusive, vibrant innovation ecosystems in the New Haven and Hartford communities. Onyeka is committed to fostering liberation through entrepreneurship and community development.
Kerry Orji is a 1st generation Nigerian-American graduate of The University of Alabama and Drexel University. Kerry spearheads Supply Chain & Logistics process improvement for Anheuser-Busch. Concurrently, Kerry is an active part-time realtor specializing in residential and commercial property acquisitions.
Kelli Peterman is a graduate planning student focusing on community planning, design, and mental health. Currently a specialist at the NYC DOHMH, Kelli contributes to several initiatives, including Mental Health by Design, youth peer advocacy, and suicide prevention. She is in her first year at Pratt GCPE.
Scott Rasmussen focuses on telecommunications policy as it intersects with equity and access. After years of policy work on Capitol Hill, he is working with NYC Mesh, an open, neutral, and resilient community network aiming to make a home or business Internet connection accessible and affordable to all New Yorkers.
Jane is an innovative public health and housing leader and social justice advocate dedicated to building a culture of health in urban New Jersey communities. Her successes include increasing Newark’s healthy homes stock and immunization rates through policy and practice and coalescing multi-sector stakeholders to optimize residents’ well-being.
Ashley is a movement lawyer, committed to building education equity and racial justice through divestment from prisons, and investing in opportunity and joy for youth of color. Previously, Ashley was a staff attorney at Youth Represent and Education Law Center-PA respectively. She is a Howard University School of Law alumna.
A former accountant, Ayla is now an aspiring urban planner focused on multimodal transportation. She serves on the board of Bike JC–an advocacy organization that aims to make streets safe and welcoming for bicyclists. She is a graduate of NYU, and is attending Rutgers University for her Master’s of City and Regional Planning. She is also a 2021 Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Finalist.
Giselle is an impact-driven healthy and sustainable cities development specialist who has been working at the intersection of urbanism and public health for over a decade. At Bloomberg Associates, Giselle advises cities in developing evidence-based urban planning solutions with the aim of improving lives of the greatest number of citizens.
Alexis Stephens is a senior communications associate at PolicyLink and delivers messages about racial and economic equity to advocates, policymakers, and journalists. Prior to that, Alexis was Next City’s 2014-2015 equitable cities fellow and has a master’s in historic preservation from the University of Pennsylvania.
Maggie Tishman is Program Director for Economic Innovation at the MIT Community Innovators Lab, a R&D hub for inclusive economic development. She is based in the Bronx, where she directs an advanced manufacturing initiative designed to build wealth and ownership for low-income people of color.
Tyler is the Chair of PLANewark, an organization of local architects, planners and allied professionals advocating for smart urban development in Newark, New Jersey. He has also designed multifamily housing, childcare facilities, and other community-focused uses in Newark and New York City.
Raquel Vazquez is an urban planner with over 10 years of community development experience, ranging from affordable housing, economic development, transportation, historic preservation, finance, and legislative affairs. A Brooklyn native, Raquel is uniquely equipped to solve a broad range of challenging policy issues with her community-based organizing approach.